Connecticut is now the third state with eviction “Right to Counsel”.
With the CT eviction moratorium slowly being pulled back, this is the latest impediment by Connecticut lawmakers to reclaiming possession of your property.
On June 3rd, the Connecticut General Assembly passed a “right to counsel” bill to ensure renters have legal representation in housing court.
Tenants have to earn less than 80% of the state median income to qualify for free legal services.
Evictions started before July 1st 2021 are not covered under this new law.
Small Landlords Suffer The Most
Not only have non-paying residents lived rent free for the last year and a half, they now get free attorneys.
Landlords will face greater legal costs from potentially drawn out eviction cases due to this new law.
The vast majority of evictions in the state are for nonpayment of rent. The small landlords suffer the most because they are forced to cover the astronomical costs of non-paying tenants:
- Legal fees
- Marshal fees
- Court fees
- Unpaid rent
- Construction turnover once the tenant leaves.
If the tenants are entitled to free legal counsel, why aren’t the landlords entitled to the same?
The housing court in CT operates with help of housing mediators that craft agreements between landlord and tenant.
Tenants already get a second chance to pay arrearages and catch up on the back rents owed with these agreements. Judges oversee each agreement making sure each side is treated fairly.
Delaying the process is the likely outcome when more lawyers are involved, and the landlords are likely to lose more money.
What landlords must do to protect themselves
The sad outcome is that higher costs to the property owners translate into higher rents and stricter rental qualifications.
The solution is to be even more selective when choosing tenants.
Here are some strategies we use:
- Don’t rent to people who have a history of bad credit
- Screen your potential tenants by using the “3-D” test – Desire, Debt, and Dependents
- Make sure you screen for references from previous landlords and employers
- Ask about their monthly income and what they plan on spending it on
- Applicant must make at least 3.5 times the monthly rent in their gross monthly income.
- When interviewing, ask questions that are open-ended so they can give some type of answer. (i.e., “What do you think makes you a great for this apartment and neighborhood?”)
- Avoid screening based on age if possible. Not only is it a violation of Fair housing laws, there’s no hard evidence showing an increase in irresponsible behavior as people get older
- Have a property management team on your side to navigate the ever changing rental landscape.